This series of short essays is intended as an introduction to TAC or as a refresher course for everyone around babies and infants who need special support for their development and learning. The article can be translated for use in newsletters, networks and websites in any country
SECOND PRINCIPLE: Parents have a rightful place in their child’s TAC. This is because the child belongs to the parents and no plans or decisions should be made without parents being fully involved. If parents are not involved, then the work should not be called Team Around the Child. Before work begins, there should be an informal agreement between parents and TAC professionals.
There has to be room for flexibility in parent involvement: A parent might be accompanied by a grandparent, older sibling or trusted friend. Another family member might take the place of a parent if TAC discussion is beyond the capacity of a parent at that time.
Some parents might be nervous of the situation and afraid to speak up. In this case, one of the TAC professionals who has a good relationship with the parent can offer support before, during and after the TAC meeting. It is strong rule of TAC that each person has an equal voice and each person’s views are respected. As the child belongs to the parents, then parents’ wishes are very important indeed.
When there are differences of view, perhaps about a course of action, there must be careful negotiation in which no one’s views are ignored or dismissed. Perhaps time is needed for more information to be gathered. Perhaps the parent and a professional can arrange to meet to go over the issues more thoroughly. Perhaps the discussion can wait till a later date. If a parent or another TAC member feels they are being ignored or bullied, then trust and partnership will be lost.
The venue chosen for TAC meetings must suit the parents. TAC meetings can work well in the family home if that is what parents want. Other venues must be accessible, welcoming and non-intimidating. Pre-school siblings must be welcomed.
There must be some sort of very basic agreement between parents and TAC professionals at the beginning. This means that parents will know what to expect. It also means everyone can evaluate in three, six or nine months’ time whether or not people have held to the agreement and are working in the way they said they would.
Here is an extract from Bringing up babies and young children who have very special needs:
'I do not advocate legal contracts between agencies and new parents. Also, it would be inappropriate for a practitioner to offer assurances to parents about what their baby or infant will achieve. But parents must be given some idea of what is on offer when they accept a support service. In my view, a modern early child and family support system should explain clearly to parents what they are offering, how they will work and what outcomes can be reasonably expected.
'This can be in the form of an initial agreement or informal contract emerging from discussions between parents and support agencies.... The following are just three examples of items for such an agreement written by the agency and given to the parents:
- We respect your right and responsibility to bring up your child. We will offer you support in this when asked.
- We will value and respect your child, treat them as a whole child and support you in giving them the best possible quality of life with freedom from discomfort and pain as far as possible.
- We will work with you to make sure support for your child is properly organised to reduce tiredness, stress and strain on your child and on yourselves as parent(s)'
An initial agreement of this sort is made before professionals have detailed knowledge about the child’s strengths and needs, but the list should include some items that relate to what is already known about the child and family in their unique situation. (This extract comes from pages 57 – 58 of the book where there is also a longer list of possible items for an informal agreement.)
Peter Limbrick, April 2021.
The First TAC Principle is here